Working at the Worlds was fair dinkum one of the best experiences of my whole life. I feel extremely privileged. I certainly don’t take it for granted and I’m seriously super-lucky.
Aaron is a good mate of mine from Bright. He’s the president of the Alpine Cycling Club and the Race Director of the Tour of Bright. He’s obviously as into cycling as I am and it was great to get this job together. This is us on the start line of the mens elite race on Sunday…
We were pretty excited here but also pretty nervous. By this stage the U23s and the Womens races were done and dusted and we knew Sunday’s race was going to be a different ball-game. We also knew what the commissaires expected of us and we hoped that we’d be able to provide all the information they wanted within the time frames they expected…. as in, as soon as it happens!
They want to know about the attacks the second they occurred. What country, what rider, and if successful, what time gaps. I knew things would happen thick, fast and repeatedly in the elite race so we were keen to be on top of it straight away.
The riders didn’t disappoint and as soon as the flag went down it was on. Riders coming quickly from left, right and through the middle were quite easy to see and still avoid on the wide Westgate Freeway. We provided the information on those attacks and the break pretty easily and if you followed the race, you know it settled down pretty quickly into the break of five riders with one in between all the way to Geelong.
When the gap got to over twenty minutes there was some serious concern that the break would complete a lap of the circuit before the peleton arrived. Luckily that didn’t eventuate but it made for some serious thought and planning. I’m not sure if anyone noticed but the convoy (all team cars and VIP cars) was prevented from entering the circuit initially until things settled down over a couple of laps.
The atmosphere on the climbs was amazing. The only difference to the Tour de France from my point-of-view was that there were barriers on the side of the road here. Both climbs were difficult enough for Aaron and I – juggling stop watches, gears, radios, riding slowly and dodging cameramen – without having to ride directly into the crowd as they do in France. I gave much thought to what that must be like!
By doing a special little ‘attention dance’, Angela (Mrs. Prestage) managed to get my attention out of the thousands of people on the hill. I wasn’t perving Presty, really, I wasn’t! I gave her a quick wave, dropped my stop-watch and deleted the time gap. Shit happens.
This is one of Crash-Test’s photos. Correct me if I’m wrong anyone but I think this is Gilbert (??) during his attack on the second-last lap (if it’s not, just imagine it is coz the following story still stays the same). He commenced the attack at the bottom of the Queens Park climb and had achieved a good gap at this point. You can see me in the side of the shot just at the rear of the media moto.
This was by far the climax of the race from my point-of-view. Another four riders joined him only seconds after this and I knew Cadel was chasing him in a small group not far behind them.
A couple of hundred metres down Pako Road – which is a wide, slightly downhill section of road for about 4 kilometres – we were screaming down the tarmac with riders chewing on the handle-bar tape all over the place. The Gilbert group of five being chased by the Cadel group of five followed by what was left of the peleton.
I was working between Gilbert and Cadel. Aaron was working between Cadel and the Peleton. All the way we were obtaining and providing time gaps between the three groups which started at about 20 seconds for both gaps… quickly diminishing.
By the end of that Pako stretch the bunch came back together at extremely high speed and most of you will know that it then remained that way until the end of the race.
I will never ever forget that feeling as I raced down the road trying to do all my jobs, four metres from Cadel Evans watching him absolutely bury himself to try and get to the front and away. It has given me a new level of respect for him. Fair dinkum… unreal!
There were a few more efforts at attacks throughout the next lap and a half but nothing was ever going to get away. When it was clear it would be a sprint finish, anyone who knows cycling knows that Cadel wasn’t going to be in the serious mix. Thor is a great winner of course and it was good to see an Aussie on the podium (despite the fact he was a drug cheat).
Being on the inside of these things really is fantastic. Sometimes I wish I knew my riders better (like Kev or The Claw) coz I’m positive I saw many famous fellas that day in the tents and around the cars but I wouldn’t have a clue who they were!
My resume is definitely going to have to go to the Tour Down Under now and I might even whip one off to the Tour de France! I’ll just sit and wait for that day when some Frenchman from the Amaury Sport Organisation has a sickie from a moto-rider on 1st July and says, “Remember that Aussie bloke who sent us his resume? Give him a call and see if he get over here.”
Ha, what a coups.